Tinder Dating Among Teens: When Swipe-Right Culture Goes to High School – Part 2

Terry downloaded Tinder when she was 17 and it was legal to be on the platform. She was looking to have “random, meaningless sex” after a bad breakup. Like the others, Terry, who is now 22, says that all of her friends were on the app. Unlike them, she listed her real age and ultimately regretted it. Before she abandoned the apps, she had run-ins with men who lied about their age or who wanted to pick her up and take her to an undisclosed location.

“I had horrible experiences,” she says. “I had a lot of guys that wanted to like, pick me up, and meet me in a place that was secluded, and didn’t understand why that was weird or just expected sex right off the bat.”

Terry’s most concerning experiences involved older guys who said they were 25 or 26 and listed a different age in their bio. “Like, why don’t you just put your real age?” she says. “It’s really weird. There are some creeps on there.”

Although there’s no public statistic on fake Tinder profiles, avoiding Tinder scams and spotting fake people on the app is fundamental to the experience of using itAdults know this. Teens don’t. Many see a fun app for meeting people or hooking up. And it’s easy to feel concerned about these minors posing as legal adults to get on a platform that makes it so easy to create a profile — real or fake.

Amanda Rose, a 38-year-old mom and professional matchmaker from New York, has two teenage boys, 15 and 17, and concerns about the way that social media and tech has changed dating. To her knowledge, her kids haven’t dated anyone they met online and they don’t use Tinder (she has the passwords to all of her kids’ phones and social media accounts.) But she’s also had many talks with them about the problem with tech and her concerns.

“We’ve had the talk that the person they are talking to might be posting pictures that are not really them,” she says. “It could be someone fake. You have to be really careful and mindful about who you interact with online.”

Amanda’s also concerned about how much teenagers — and the adult clients with whom she works — resort to the digital in order to repair their relationships or remain connected to the world.

“I’ve noticed, even with my clients, that people go to texting. They don’t pick up the phone and call someone. I talk to my kids about that: about how important it is to actually, pick up the phone and not hide behind a phone or a computer screen,” she says. “Because that’s where you build relationships.”

If you just stay behind text messages, Amanda says, you’re not going to build stronger relationships. Even when her oldest son talks about issues with his girlfriend, she tells him: “Don’t text her. You need to step outside if you don’t want anyone to hear the conversation and pick up the phone and call her.”

Still, certain teenagers who ventured onto Tinder have positive stories. Katie, who asked to be referred to by her first name only for privacy, went to an all-girls Catholic school and had a conservative family. She used the app as a way to figure out her sexual identity and credits it for helping her navigate a new and burgeoning sense of self in a way that didn’t leave her open to hostile teenagers, school staff, or disapproving family members.

“I was not out. I was very, very in the closet,” she says. “It was one of my first ever moments of letting myself kind of even acknowledge that I was bisexual. It felt very safe and private.”

On Tinder, Katie says she saw women from her high school looking for other women. Seeing this helped her feel less alone.

“I was 16 and had no idea that they felt that way,” she says. “They didn’t know I felt that way.”

Katie downloaded Tinder at a volleyball tournament. She was with a bunch of friends. They were all women and all straight.

“I was dealing with having queer feelings and not having anyone to talk to about it. I didn’t feel like I could actually talk to anybody, even my close friends about it at that point. So, I kind of used it more to just figure out what being gay is like, I guess.”

Her experience was freeing. “It didn’t feel threatening to flirt with women, and just figure myself out in a way that involved different people without having to feel like I exposed myself to people who would be unfriendly toward me,” she says.

Katie’s story is both unique and not unique. The trend of queer people using dating apps to enter relationships is well-known. Twice as many LGBTQ+ singles use dating apps than heterosexual people. About half of LGBTQ+ singles have dated someone they met online; 70 percent of queer relationships have begun online. That Katie got on the app when she was 16 is maybe not typical, but she found her first girlfriend on the app, and within a few years, came out to her family. Being able to safely explore her bisexuality in an otherwise hostile environment without coming out publicly until she was ready, Katie says, was “lifesaving.”

To find love and acceptance, one must put themselves out there. For teenagers, those whose lives are basically based around understanding and seeking acceptance, this can be an especially daunting prospect — especially so in an age when digital communication is the norm. So why not jump on Tinder, which requires one-minute of setup to help them sit on the edge of  — or dive directly into — the dating pool?

“There’s that whole thing about not looking like you’re trying, right? Tinder is the lowest effort dating platform, in my opinion. Which also makes it harder to meet people,” says Jenna. “But it doesn’t look like you’re trying hard. All of the other ones don’t seem like that.”

Still, while stories like Jenna’s and Katie’s highlight how the app can provide a useful outlet of self-acceptance, neither young woman used the platform as intended. As Tinder seems to suggest by it’s tagline, “Single is a terrible thing to waste,” the app is for those looking for sex. Fostering connections may be more bug than feature. It’s not reassuring that the best stories about teens using the platform tend to emerge from edge-case scenarios, not from the typical function of the app, which is designed as a sexual outlet, but may also condition its user to accepting certain types of sexual experiences.

“You don’t want industry to be the decider of teen sexuality,” says Dines. “Why would you leave it to a profit-based industry?”

That’s a profound question and not one teens are likely to dwell on. Teens will continue to experiment because, well, that’s what teens do. And if they don’t receive guidance from adults in their lives, their early experiences on platforms like Tinder will shape their approach to adult relationships going forward. More than anything, that may be the hazard teens face on Tinder: the morphing of their own expectations.

“You don’t want to leave it to the [profiteers],” says Dines. “We want more for our kids than that, no matter their sexuality.”

 

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Tinder Dating Among Teens: When Swipe-Right Culture Goes to High School – Part 1

Jenna created a Tinder profile when she was 17. Using the dating app’s toggling age form, she chose “18,” the youngest available option, and wrote “actually 17” on her profile. This was common practice at the New Jersey high school where she was a senior and her best way into a swipe-right culture that promised access to intimacy and acceptance. Jenna was a teenager. She had never been kissed. She wasn’t very popular. This was a no-brainer.

“Why did I do it?  So… my friends had boyfriends. And I didn’t. I mean, no one at my school seems like worth it. And it’s like, an easier way to find other people in the area. I was also considering hooking up with people,” says Jenna, who is now 19. “Was it useful? That’s debatable.”

Jenna joined Tinder in 2016, shortly after the company announced that the platform would be excluding the 13- to 17-year-olds it had previously welcomed. Though Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen had defended providing young people with access, saying it was a way to make friends, the company caved to public pressure. It was clear, after all, that teens weren’t just using Tinder to find friends. For many, it had become a place to find random hookups and validation. For others, it had become a safe place to experiment with their sexuality. Perhaps for most, it offered a rough introduction into the adult sexual economy.

“I got close to hooking up with one person, and then I backed out real hardcore,” recalls Jenna. ”He wanted to get a hotel. I was like, ‘My guy, I don’t have money, I can’t pay for a hotel.’”

I downloaded Tinder in April of 2019 to search for underage users on the platform for this story (I’ve changed the names of the users I interview for the sake of their privacy). The process of downloading the dating app took me less than a minute. Tinder didn’t ask for my age or require me to link to my Facebook or other existing social media accounts. I just had to verify my email address. For my first profile, I used an actual photo of myself as well as my real name and actual age. Thinking I might find more under-18s if I posed as an 18-year-old, I deleted my account and made a new one with the same picture, same name, and a different email in the same span of time. I also pressed Tinder on their age verification standards, but they did not respond to requests for comment. (The app allows users to report on people not using it properly, but that seems to be the extent of the monitoring.)

Launched in 2012, Tinder has long been the most popular dating app in the world. Used in about 200 countries, it boasts 10 million active daily users and 50 million total users. At the time Tinder announced new age restrictions, three percent of its daily user base was underage, amounting to some 1.5 million minors. But many didn’t leave. They pretended to be 18 and stuck around for the thrill of it. Scrolling through the app, dozens of profiles surface of users who are ostensibly 20 with “actually 18” written in their profiles, which suggests these users signed up at 16 and aged up with the app rather than creating new profiles. For better and mostly worse, the teens are still there.

How many underage kids are on Tinder? It’s impossible to say, but according to research by Monica Anderson at the PEW Research Center, 95 percent of teenagers have a smartphone. More than a few is a safe guess.

Dr. Gail Dines, President and CEO of Culture Reframed and Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College, argues that teens retaining access to Tinder exacerbates a major cultural issue. Dines studies the way that the easy and ubiquitous access to pornography on the Internet affects romantic dating culture and argues that Tinder and other such dating apps have changed the teenage years by providing teens with a reason to obsess over their sexual presentation.

“What we’ve done is we’ve compressed their childhood,” says Dines. “Now, teens are meant to be sexual at a much earlier age, because those are the messages that are coming at them all the time. Especially for girls.”

The key message coming at them, Dines said, is that they’re either “fuckable” or invisible. She explains that this incentivizes teenagers to try to make themselves “fuckable in order to be visible” and that this dynamic effects children of younger and younger ages. Young girls have long been sexualized. Now, they are self-sexualizing to an increasing degree. And Tinder gives them a platform on which to practice being objectified and objectifying each other in lieu of developing strong social bonds.

“You cannot replace social media with actually being in a group,” Dines says. “The things you learn from being in a group, in real time, are not replaceable with social media. How to act, how to get cues from people, what works and doesn’t work for you — all of those things.”

Adolescence, Dines adds, is a time for experimentation on every level. It’s a big world out there and teenagers are trying to locate themselves in it. By moving away from the physical, teens are missing out on a very crucial experience.

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 2

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
COURTESY OF LORI MATTIX

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Winter of 1979 – Lola – Part 6

Lola’s mom is out with her sister. All Lola and I want is some alone time.  I just want to kiss her her

I go to her house. The whole relationship has been condemned by anybody who knows. But I love her. Lola is beautiful and voluptuous and I can’t resist her. Her mom seems fine with is. I’m a nice boy who looks so innocent I’m probably her a year older than her 14-year-old daughter. I feel like Jimmy Page and Lori Maddox at this point. (Google it friends) But I adore Lola. She’s such a sweet baby to me. I always liked young girls. I think it came from me being me being grounded so much and having to hang out with my middle sisters at the house that I got a taste for young girls.

They were always around. So cute and friendly. I had no point of reference, I think it stunted my sexual maturity. From fucking up and being grounded all of the time when I was younger I would be home with my sister and her friends. I had nothing to do and they were always around. This is a thing I carried with me my entire life. All of my girlfriends once I got out of my horrible nightmare of a marriage were all younger than me.

20 years, 17 years, 10 years, and now 30 years. It’s a never ending cycle of failure.

If you date women younger than you, they will always want marriage and kids. and if you’re divorced and have a kid and paying a fortune in chid support you will never want to do that again, no matter how magically amazing your girl is. (See: Michelle.)

It’s a horrible cycle.

I kept dating and getting into relationships with young women over and over for over a decade and they all end the same.

 

Lola is delicious. I love her. But I don’t even know what love is. I have already relieved her of her virginity. I feel guilt and victory in the same breath. But mostly fear of the consequences of the adult part. Pregnancy and VD are my biggest nightmares from Jersey to LA. That and drugs.

I have realized that I love the feeling of being around a beautiful girl. I’m a teenager and I am crippled by anxiety and depression I don’t even know I have but Lola makes me feel good for the first time.

I go to her Aunt’s house and we kiss, drink soda, and watch TV. We know when her mom will be back.

I was always amazed at how big Lola’s breasts were at the age of 14 and how much she liked me having sex with her. But I was her first.

I had already had my cherry busted years ago in Philly at 16 but for Lola this was a whole new world. It was for me too. Sadly, even at the age of 17 I actually was even more turned on I was fucking an underage girl.

What was wrong with me at age 17? I don’t think now it was anything perverted because I really thought of Lola as my girlfriend and I absolutely loved her. Cute, sweet, witty and fun. Lola made me feel relaxed with a girl for the first time.

I loved her little visits with her mom in the winter of 79. Lola was the sweetest, warmest moments of my life back then.

 

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Tales of Rock – David Bowie and the 15-Year-Old Girls

The surprise news of David Bowie passing Sunday night caught everyone off guard, and there has been a massive outpouring of emotion and support for a man whose music and art touched many (New Times has published two such pieces). Those tributes are well-deserved. Bowie leaves behind an incredibly diverse and impressive body of work, and he has inspired millions. David Bowie was many things — rock ‘n’ roll hero, queer icon, fashion superstar, a man unafraid to make daring artistic choices. He was also the type of man who, in his mid-20s, allegedly would sleep with two girls not old enough to drive themselves to his hotel.

Consider the story of Lori Maddox and her friend, Sable Starr.

In her teens, Maddox (often spelled “Mattix”) was known as Lori Lightning, a barely post-pubescent model who became known as a groupie in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip nightclub scene. Raised by a single working mother with little time to care for Maddox, Maddox befriended a girl her own age, Sable Starr, and the two would eventually go on to party with just about every major rock star that came through LA. Most famously, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page kept Maddox as a hidden girlfriend for two years while she was underage.

But before Page, there was David Bowie.

Maddox has repeatedly said in interviews that she met Bowie as a young teen and he asked her up to his hotel room. She was 14, and Bowie was in his mid-20s. Afraid, she declined. But five months later Bowie again propositioned her, and she and Starr went to his room.

Maddox has since told the story several times, including once for a VH1 documentary that curiously omitted her age at the time, but she most succinctly told it to Thrillist just a few months ago.

Next time Bowie was in town, though, maybe five months later, I got a call at home from his bodyguard, a huge black guy named Stuey. He told me that David wanted to take me to dinner. Obviously, I had no homework that night. Fuck homework. I wasn’t spending a lot of time at school anyway. I said that I would like to go but that I wanted to bring my friend Sable. She was dying to fuck Bowie. I figured that she would sleep with him while I got to hang out and have fun.

So the two girls went to Bowie’s hotel, where, according to Maddox, she had sex with Bowie, which later turned into a threesome with Sable.

We got to the Beverly Hilton and all went up to Bowie’s enormous suite. I found myself more and more fascinated by him. He was beautiful and clever and poised. I was incredibly turned on. Bowie excused himself and left us in this big living room with white shag carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows. Stuey brought out Champagne and hash. We were getting stoned when, all of a sudden, the bedroom door opens and there is Bowie in this fucking beautiful red and orange and yellow kimono.

He focused his famously two-colored eyes on me and said, “Lori, darling, can you come with me?” Sable looked like she wanted to murder me. He walked me through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where he dropped his kimono. He got into the tub, already filled with water, and asked me to wash him. Of course I did. Then he escorted me into the bedroom, gently took off my clothes, and de-virginized me.
Two hours later, I went to check on Sable. She was all fucked up in the living room, walking around, fogging up windows and writing, “I want to fuck David.” I told him what she was doing and that I felt so bad. Bowie said, “Well, darling, bring her in.” That night I lost my virginity and had my first threesome. The next morning, there was banging on the door and it was fucking [Bowie’s wife] Angie. I was terrified of her. David said not to worry about it. They were already at the point where they had separate rooms. She probably knew he’d be in there with girls… or boys. He was totally bisexual. I saw David many times after that, for the next 10 years, and it was always great.

So far as I could find, Bowie has neither confirmed nor denied Maddox’s account of that night, and there don’t seem to be any pictures of Bowie and Maddox. That said, Maddox’s relationship with Page, which — again — began when she was 15, is universally accepted as fact by now. Rolling Stone even confirmed it. Getty Images has archived photos in which Page drapes an arm around an obviously juvenile Maddox.

And to be fair, Maddox has not once indicated that she found the experience traumatic, though the encounter under today’s laws would be considered statutory rape. Quite the contrary, in interviews in the past few years, Maddox seems joyous retelling the story. Thrillist asked her point-blank if she saw any problem with how Bowie, a powerful older man supplying young teens with drugs and alcohol, slept with her that night.

“I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful,” she replied. “I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”

She later added, “I feel like I was very present. I saw the greatest music ever. I got to hang out with some of the most amazing, most beautiful, most charismatic men in the world. I went to concerts in limos with police escorts. Am I going to regret this? No.”

Of course, statutory rape laws are in place for a reason. And it’s up to Maddox to define whether her sexual encounter with Bowie was traumatic. Many have dismissed Page’s and Bowie’s actions as par for the course for famous rock stars, dirty misdeeds overshadowed by their contributions to the pop zeitgeist. Many are crediting Bowie’s being an androgynous role model with saving the lives of queer children worldwide. Statutory rape seems destined to be a footnote in Bowie’s legacy, because maybe that’s how we as a society evaluate our famous people: We don’t let singular acts overwhelm the legacy. We measure people’s value by what they contribute to society, and if a man happens to act unethically on the way to selling millions of records and being an overwhelmingly positive force in the lives of millions, so be it.

 

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Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1979 – Lola – Part 5

Lola and I continued to see each other on a regular basis. I guess she was my girlfriend now. We only had that one opportunity to have sex, but it was glorious, and that changes you.

I looked back on my short life. In just two years I had gone from high school loser to a guy that was doing better in school. I had emerged in one piece from my horrid puberty, joined a band, learned how to play guitar and write songs. I was having another great summer and was reeling in the euphoria of it all.

I had started jamming with a kid I met and at least that was a start. I’d deal with the new high school in the Fall because there was nothing I could do about it. I was seventeen years old now. In New Jersey I could get my driver’s license before the end of the year.

Lola had to go back to Newark and back to middle school so it was bittersweet, but she assured me she’d visit. Her mom liked to get away from the city even in the winter. (Who wouldn’t want to get away from Newark as much as possible?) She said she’d come down with her mom on the occasional weekend to visit with her aunt, so we could be together.

 

I was playing my favorite pinball machine, ‘Flash’ at Botto’s when my middle sister, April and a friend of hers entered the arcade. They played some songs on the jukebox and played Ms. Pac Man and sipped sodas.

Other than my sister, April and her friend Brenda, we were the only ones in the place. It was nearly Labor day and the summer was basically over so nobody was around. There would be one last surge of tourists for the three-day weekend, but the summer of 1979 was on its ass, as my dad would say.

Her friend goes outside to the phone booth to make a call. (Google it, millennials!) April approaches to watch me play.

“You love that machine.”

“I do.” I say, not taking my eye off the ball and slapping the buttons on the side to drive the flippers to keep that ball scoring. I never look away for anyone. Unless Farrah Fawcett walked into Botto’s then I might make an exception and let the ball drop.

“I see you’ve been spending time with Lola lately.”

“Oh, who? Oh Yea. Lola. I see her here sometimes. She seems nice.” (I like keeping my life as private as possible, unlike now where every meal people have is posted on social media. Fools!)

“I’ve seen you in here with her a lot.”

Eye on the game. Scoring. “I come here a lot. People come here. It’s everybody’s hangout.”

“I saw you on the beach with her.”

“Umm… I’ve seen her at the beach.”

“No, I mean like together on the beach.”

“Yea… I might have hung out with her once at the beach. No big deal. I hang with a lot of people at the beach.

“I saw you in the water with her.”

I just keep playing but I’m starting to get annoyed. “So? The water’s warm this time of year.

“But you guys were doing more than just swimming and body surfing. I saw other things.”

Now I’m starting to struggle with my game due to the interrogation from my obvious ‘future prosecuting attorney’, fourteen year old sister, April.

“Whatever.”

“And the stuff you were doing on the blanket together. I saw you.”

“What’s the big deal?” I smirk.

“What are you some kind of cradle robber, Chaz?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Dude. She’s MY AGE!”

“WHAT?”

Lola’s FOURTEEN YEARS OLD!”

The ball just falls past my flippers. “WHAT?”

“Yea. She’s fourteen.”

“Oh, Fuck.”

“I’m not going to say anything, but just be careful. I’m just looking out for you.”

My heart is pounding and I’m having an anxiety attack, but I’m keeping it inside.

“Well she went home so…no problem. I probably won’t hear from her again.”

April looked at me with a suspicious eye.

“Right….”

She smirks, and her friend Brenda returns. “Let’s go across the street and play mini golf.”

 

I’m standing there alone in the arcade. My mind is reeling. What the fuck? Fourteen? What have I done? I thought Lola was on the right side of sixteen with that slamming body.  I never asked, just assumed, and she never said anything.

Have I just punched a teenage girl’s V card and committed statutory rape on a girl I love?

What am I going to do?

 

Nothing.

That’s what I’m going to do.

 

Nobody knows anything except me and Lola. It’s between us. April just saw us making out on the beach.

Nothing happened.

 

Jesus!

I calm myself by just breathing. I don’t want to throw up in Botto’s.

I reach in my pocket and pull out a quarter. I thrust the coin into the open slot of the machine…. and have a memory.

I start playing again.

 

And I like it.

 

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1979 – Lola – Part 4

I slumped over beside her, sweating like a thoroughbred. I turned to her and kissed her gently on her ripe lips.

STOP!

WARNING! THIS POST IS NSFW! IF YOU’RE AT WORK DO NOT READ THIS! WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE NOT AT WORK. 

I KNOW THIS IS A DATING BLOG, BUT I’M TELLING THIS STORY THE ONLY WAY I CAN.

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Go here to go read this chapter:

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/wildwood-daze-lola-chapter-4/

 

 

That’s my honey.

 

 

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